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“The Problem With Donald Trump’s Fact-Free ‘Instincts'”: Lack Of Basic Understanding Of Government And Public Policy

Donald Trump has a handful of core issues that help define his political identity. Indeed, one need not be a political news junkie to be able to rattle off the list: the New York Republican wants to “make America great again” by banning foreign Muslims from entering the country and addressing immigration by building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

It was literally in his surreal campaign kick-off speech that Trump made international headlines by declaring, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

For anti-immigration voters, Trump quickly became the presidential candidate they’ve been waiting for. But what does the presumptive Republican nominee actually know about his signature issue? Joshua Green has a fascinating new piece in Bloomberg Politics, which is largely about Trump undoing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’ years of work, but the article included one anecdote in particular that amazed me.

He explained the genesis of his heterodox views. “I’m not sure I got there through deep analysis,” he said. “My views are what everybody else’s views are. When I give speeches, sometimes I’ll sign autographs and I’ll get to talk to people and learn a lot about the party.” […]

I asked, given how immigration drove his initial surge of popularity, whether he, like [Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions], had considered the RNC’s call for immigration reform to be a kick in the teeth. To my surprise, he candidly admitted that he hadn’t known about it or even followed the issue until recently. “When I made my [announcement] speech at Trump Tower, the June 16 speech,” he said, “I didn’t know about the Gang of Eight…. I just knew instinctively that our borders are a mess.”

For quite a while, it’s obviously been a problem that Donald Trump lacks a basic understanding of government and public policy. But anecdotes like these are a reminder about an alarming, related detail: he’s not particularly interested in current events, either.

I’m not even sure he’s clear on the meaning of “instinctively.”

The political fight surrounding the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill was a politically dominant issue for months, and given Trump’s apparent interest in immigrants and the Mexican border, one might assume he followed the debate closely. Except, he didn’t. As recently as a year ago, he launched a presidential campaign predicated in part on his immigration views, which consisted of a few offensive soundbites.

After all, he doesn’t arrive at his conclusions “through deep analysis.”

Instead, Trump says he understood U.S. border policy “instinctively.” That doesn’t make any sense. If he had literally no substantive understanding of developments at the border, it’s impossible to rely on instincts to understand the value of current border policy.

Let me put this another way. If I pitch Rachel Maddow on a story for the show, she can instinctively tell whether or not it’s a good idea because she has expertise in this area. If I were to ask her the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, she couldn’t offer an instinctive answer because she has a limited background in birds and physics.

If I were to ask Donald Trump about the value of a high-rise in Midtown Manhattan, he could probably give me a decent instinctive answer. If I were to ask him to reflect on U.S. border security, he can’t – because, according the man himself, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

When Trump refers to his “instincts,” he seems to mean guesses that result from superficial news consumption. For a guy having an argument in a bar, that’s fine. For someone seeking the nation’s highest office, it’s cause for alarm.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 27, 2016

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Governing, Immigration Reform, Public Policy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Everyone Hates Congress”: Republicans Are Still Incapable Of Governing

If you want a demonstration on why it’s so easy for regular folks to despise politicians, look no further than the shenanigans that went on in the U.S. House of Representatives, yesterday. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), who is openly gay, has been attaching a LGBT rights amendment to Republican bills. He’s able to do this because Speaker Ryan has decided to allow for a much more open amendments process than his predecessors, but that comes with a cost. The cost is that the opposition finds it much easier to mess with you by offering amendments that drive wedges into your caucus.

Gay rights is one of those wedge issues. First, Rep. Maloney attached his amendment to a military construction bill. It provided “that nothing in the underlying spending bill can undermine President Obama’s executive order barring discrimination by government contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

When it became clear that the amendment would pass, the House leadership held the vote open until they could whip enough votes to defeat it, 212-213. That was last week.

On Wednesday night, Rep. Maloney attached the amendment to an energy spending bill and it passed 223-195, with 43 Republicans and all the Democrats supporting it.

Isn’t it amazing that the same body of 435 representatives could have such a different opinion of an amendment depending on whether it was attached to a military construction bill or an energy bill?

In truth, those 43 Republicans don’t object to the amendment. They didn’t want to go on the record opposing it the first time.

But, fine, they eventually exercised their independent judgment and passed it, right?

What happened then?

The victory was short-lived, however, as the amendment proved to be a poison pill that led scores of Republicans to oppose the underlying energy bill, which suffered a crushing 112-305 defeat on the floor Thursday. One hundred and thirty Republicans voted against the package, while just six Democrats supported it.

The Republicans voted against gay rights before they voted for them before they voted against them again?

Of course, they blamed the Democrats for not supporting the energy bill, but the energy bill wasn’t crafted to win Democratic support. What actually happened is that gay-hating Republicans who supported the energy appropriations decided to vote against them once the funds became attached to an anti-discrimination provision.

This is, of course, Speaker Ryan’s fault because he decided to let the Democrats offer these types of amendments to bills they have no intention of supporting. And that allows the Democrats to have a good old time exposing the Republicans’ divisions and horrible record on gay rights.

It’s another demonstration that the GOP is not capable of acting as a cohesive governing coalition. They cannot fund the government. And they couldn’t fund it even before they opened the door for the Democrats to shiv them at every opportunity.

The average citizen doesn’t understand all the procedural and strategic maneuvering here. All they see is a bunch of politicians who shift their votes with no regard for principle, who are more interested in embarrassing each other than in getting things done, and who simply cannot preform even the most basic elements of their jobs.

I’m not making a moral equivalency argument here. The Democrats are right on the merits and, given a majority, would have no problems figuring out how to fund the government. But that’s difficult to see. What’s easy to see is why everyone now seems to hate Congress.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 27, 2016

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Congress, Governing, House Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“President In Name Only”: There Are Presidential Duties Trump ‘Doesn’t Want To Do’

Paul Manafort, a controversial Republican lobbyist, joined Donald Trump’s team in late March, and at least initially, his task was to help oversee delegate recruiting. It wasn’t long, however, before Manafort worked his way up to effectively running the entire operation: less than two months after joining the campaign, he’s now Trump’s campaign chairman and chief strategist.

Yesterday, Manafort sat down with the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman for a fairly long interview, and while the two covered quite a bit of ground, there was one exchange in particular that stood out for me.

The vice presidential pick will also be part of the process of proving he’s ready for the White House, Manafort said.

“He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He seems himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

This is no small acknowledgement. For months, it’s been clear that Trump has no meaningful understanding of public policy or even how government works at a basic level. By any fair measure, his ignorance and incompetence about affairs of state is unlike anything Americans have ever seen in a major-party presidential candidate. The question has long been when we can expect Trump to get up to speed.

And the answer is, he has no intention of doing any such thing. Day-to-governing and overseeing the executive branch apparently represent “the part of the job he doesn’t want to do.”

President Trump, in other words, would prefer to be more of a big-picture kind of guy who isn’t overly concerned about details and roll-up-your-sleeves kind of work.

As for who, exactly, might be the best person to “do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do,” Manafort added that there’s a “long list” filled with contenders who have “major problems.”

We should not, however, expect to see diversity on the Republican ticket. Choosing a woman or a member of a minority group to run as vice president, Manafort said, “would be viewed as pandering, I think.”

As for what else we learned from the interview:

* Manafort thinks Trump will be elected president easily. “This is not a hard race,” he said.

* The campaign chairman believes Trump may “moderate” his proposed Muslim ban a little.

* We shouldn’t expect to ever see Trump’s tax returns.

* Manafort believes Trump won’t budge on building a border wall: “He is going to build a wall. That is a core thing with him.”

As for the GOP candidate’s ability to demonstrate his preparedness for the Oval Office, Manafort added, “Does he know enough? Yes, because he knows he has more to learn.”

I’m honestly not sure what that means – it sounds like he’s saying Trump knows enough because he knows he doesn’t know enough – but in Trump Land, making sense is generally an annoyance that’s better left to others.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 26, 2016

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Executive Branch, Governing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Worse Than Useless”: Emergencies Causing Problems For The Do-Nothing Speaker

At the New Republic David Dayen has an appropriately scathing appraisal of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s accomplishments this year. He famously cannot get a budget resolution passed. He’s done nothing on the list of priorities he announced when he took up the gavel. But beyond those failures, he can’t even deal with emergencies, including the Puerto Rico debt crisis, the Zika crisis, the Flint water-poisoning disaster, and the opioid epidemic.

To Dayen, that makes Ryan worse than useless, because “[t]he basic test of governance is the ability to respond to rapidly changing events.” This may be true in theory, but the entire premise of Ryan’s accession to the Speakership is that he’d place “governance” on hold until November, despite a Potemkin village semblance of “regular order” and other legislative activity. Here’s how I put it back in December:

What Boehner, McConnell, and Ryan in turn appear to have accomplished is to convince conservative activist groups and the members of Congress who listen to them to become satisfied with an apocalypse later rather than an apocalypse now. Ryan will get the lion’s share of praise as some sort of party-unifying genius, but it’s the promise of a postelection conservative ideological feeding frenzy that’s really done the trick. If Republicans pull off the POTUS/House/Senate trifecta next year, then the kind of policies now considered “divisive” when pushed against the resistance of Senate filibusters or presidential vetoes will then be noncontroversial.

And so, all the controversial stuff was dumped out of a continuing appropriation and tax extender package (the so-called “taxibus”) that ensured the federal government would continue to function until the end of the fiscal year (conveniently near Election Day), with the gamble being that divisions over what to do with a Democratic president might soon be moot.

But this do-nothing plan didn’t take emergencies into account, and thus emergencies are hanging fire for Ryan.

He will presumably muddle his way through, but the steadily darkening prospects for any sort of Republican mega-win in November is making all the signatories to this implicit deal uneasy. And if things go south on Election Day, so will Ryan’s reputation:

If, on the other hand, the GOP loses the presidency and/or the Senate, then the party could be back to where it was when Boehner was Speaker, and Paul Ryan won’t necessarily be any better at dealing with frustrated right-wingers.

The difference is that Ryan may be exposed as a fraud, which is not what he had in mind when he agreed to take the gavel.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 22, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Emergency Resolutions, Federal Budget, Governing, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“First, Know How Power Works”: Revolutionaries Have To Be Smart And Ruthless

Truer words were never spoken:

A top Republican National Committee staffer fired back Tuesday at presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, saying it’s not the committee’s fault that Trump’s campaign staffers and his children don’t understand the rules.

Sean Spicer, an RNC spokesman, said on CNN the delegate allocation rules in Colorado and every other state were filed with the national committee back in October and made available to every GOP campaign.

“If you’re a campaign and you don’t understand the process that’s going on, then that’s bad on the staff. That’s bad on the campaign,” he said. “Running for office entails putting together a campaign that understands the process. There’s nothing rigged.”

Spicer continued: “I understand that people sometimes don’t like the process or may not understand it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fair and open and transparent.”

Apparently, a couple of Trump’s children couldn’t even understand how to register themselves to vote in the New York primary.

Look, I understand the sentiment that the system is rotten and the game is rigged. I do. But I don’t take people seriously who seek power but have no real idea how power works. If you want to be the nominee of the Republican or the Democratic Party, you need to figure out how that can be done. And, if you’re an outsider who is running with a message that the gatekeepers are all a bunch of losers and morons, or that they’re all corrupted by money, then you’ll need a plan for winning the people you’ve insulted over to your side.

Let me remind you to take a look at the list of Republicans that Donald Trump has insulted just on Twitter. I won’t deny that Trump’s insult-dog comedy routine contributed to his electoral successes, but it’s biting him in the ass now that he’s losing delegates who should rightfully be in his corner.

Bernie Sanders ought to have understood that he needed to work very hard on introducing himself to southern black voters, but that’s only half of his problem. The other half is that the superdelegates are overwhelmingly opposed to his candidacy. He needed a plan to prevent that from happening.

We can argue about how possible it ever was for either of these candidates to win over more establishment support, but they both thought they could overcome the lack of it by going straight to the people. Trump may still pull this out, maybe, but he’s acting awfully surprised to discover that his delegates can be stolen from him for the simple reason that delegates don’t like him. A savvy adviser would have told him about this likelihood last summer, and maybe he could have been a little more selective in his insults and a little more solicitous of establishment support.

Obviously, Sanders is running an outsider campaign built on criticizing those who are flourishing in our current political system, but he’s also running to be the leader of a party (and all that party’s infrastructure and organizations), and there has to be a better middle ground that allows you to challenge entrenched power without totally alienating it. Even if there wasn’t a way to be successful in gathering more institutional support, I would have liked to see him make the effort.

So far, I’ve been focusing on a straightforward strategy for winning a major party nomination as an outsider and challenger of the status quo, which is difficult enough. But imagine if one of these two outsiders actually won the presidency. They’d both have a lot of repair work to do with an establishment that they’d have to govern.

I really do understand the appeal of declaring the whole system rotten and just going after it in a populist appeal for root-and-branch change. But I think it’s a bit of a sucker’s game to hitch yourself to that kind of wagon if you don’t get the sense that the challengers really understand how power works, how to seize it, and what to do with it if you get it.

I want a progressive challenger who is pragmatic and ruthless enough to navigate our rotten system and then have the leadership abilities to lead it once they’ve taken control of it.

I never got the sense that Sanders was that guy, or even close to that guy.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 13, 2016

April 15, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Campaign Consultants, Donald Trump, Governing | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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